William Judd

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Nvidia Project Shield announced at CES ’13: an Android-powered handheld gaming console

Thus far, it’s been a pretty good CES – we’ve seen 4K everything, the death of 3D and quite a few new smartphones. Probably the most interesting announcement of the show so far has been Nvidia’s Project Shield, a new Android-powered handheld gaming console. Project Shield is interesting because it wraps two new Nvidia technologies into a rather novel form factor – a clamshell design that pairs a 5″ 720p display mounted above an Xbox 360 style controller, complete with dual analog sticks, buttons and triggers.

The first Nvidia technology that makes Project Shield possible is the Tegra 4 architecture at the console’s heart. This architecture is rumoured to be based on a 28nm process, offering a considerable power and efficiency advantage over last year’s Tegra 3 which uitilised a 40 nm process. The chipset uses a similar 4-plus-1 design, with four high-power cores for intensive tasks and a single low-power companion core that vastly reduces battery drain for easier tasks like playing music or video. The five CPU cores are paired with 72 GPU cores that should produce excellent 3D performance, allowing for excellent looking graphics at a high frame rate. While the quad-core CPU is only expected to run at 1.9 GHz, a small increase over the 1.7 GHz utilised by the highest spec Tegra 3 processors, the performance increase should be considerable.

The incredible hardware on tap with Tegra 4 should allow for impressive Android performance. We saw some brilliant games developed in the Tegra Zone for Tegra 3 devices like the Nexus 7 and the Asus Transformer Prime, like zombie survival shooter Dead Trigger, and that’s set to continue with Tegra 4. By ensuring that game developers have a specific and powerful hardware target, we should be able to see games that eclipse anything that we’ve seen on Android before. And of course, with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and the full Google Play marketplace on tap you won’t be limited to games either – you can watch movies, read magazines and use other apps on the 5″ touchscreen.

Interestingly, it won’t only be Android titles that can be played by Project Shield. Thanks to the titular Nvidia Shield service, you’ll also be able to stream PC games to the handheld console. The display will connect wirelessly to your gaming PC over dual band Wireless N, while the Nvidia Shield service will pass along your inputs made with the Project Shield controller. With the Project Shield, you’ll be able to enjoy a wide range of formerly PC-only videogames from the comfort of your couch. While some titles won’t be suitable for the smaller screen and controller input, most that are built for consoles as well like Call of Duty and Need for Speed should work brilliantly on Project Shield.

The powerful Tegra 4 hardware and clever Nvidia Shield software should make Project Shield a convincing games console for 2013 – although with ever more powerful sim-free smartphones and tablets, Nvidia will definitely not have an easy fight on their hands. While we don’t know precisely when Project Shield will be released and how much it will cost when it is released, it could prove to be an excellent gaming machine and I can’t wait to try one for myself.

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Acer Iconia B1 tablet launches at $150

After quite a few weeks of half-hearted leaks, Acer has announced its latest budget Android tablet. Called the Acer Iconia B1-A71, the tablet chiefly impresses through its price, which is expected to be under $150.

In other regards, the tablet is unfortunately mediocre. The Iconia B1 is trading on specs that could perhaps maybe prove a good lower-cost alternative to the Nexus 7, but ultimately don’t seem worthwhile for the small price reduction.

You get a 1.2 GHz Mediatek dual-core processor, 512 MB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage and a 1024 x 600 7″ touchscreen – about the same specification as the BlackBerry Playbook, then. The Iconia B1 leaked last year with some rather dreadful GLBenchmark results – a mighty 3.3 FPS in the Egypt HD test, and only 18 FPS on the much older Egypt Classic test using the tablet’s native resolution.

At least it runs Jelly Bean, Android 4.1, so you’ll at least have the benefit of being able to use some portion of the 700,000 Android apps available. Although few of these are tablet optimised, and I’m guessing most games won’t run too well on such a slow processor.

Still, the Acer Iconia B1 is still quite cheap. And that’ll make it ideal fodder for less-informed tablet buyers, who are out to get the kids something good for Christmas but don’t want to spend as much money as they would in the case for the iPad 4 or even the Nexus 7.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

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Nokia Lumia firmware source shuttered

If you were among the hard-core Windows Phone fans that would look to get firmware updates before they were properly released, we’ve got some bad news for you. According to Slovakian website SmartMobil, Nokia is planning to restrict access to the Navifirm service that often allowed early downloads of upcoming Nokia firmwares, including those for the Finnish company’s Lumia line of Windows Phone 7 and 8 smartphones.

For now, it’s still possible to get earlier firmware in the same way – just download the NaviFirm Plus tool, connect to the server, search for your Nokia device, then download the firmware from the tool.
But at the end of the month, that’s set to change. Starting in February, you’ll need a “Nokia Online” login in order to access both application and firmware updates. The announcement made doesn’t seem to make clear whether this would be a standard aNokia account, or one that would be restricted to actual developers.
It does seem likely that you’ll have to jump through a few more hoops to get your fix of hot-off-the-press Nokia firmwares, though.  While I’m sure at least one developer with access will leak the firmware, it does open the system up to potential problems – a hostile developer might release malware in the guise of the latest system update as a trap for those who go looking for it early, for example. We’ll have to hope that Nokia choose a reasonable process for allowing access to the firmware, as it’s a great resource as present to get timely updates from a trusted source.
This article is brought to you by Will of Mobile Fun – the UK’s leader in Nokia Lumia 920 accessories, which will doubtful prove useful in the face of this sudden dearth of virtual Lumia upgrades!

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iPhone 5S rumours surface

According to Jeffries analyst Peter Misek, Apple may be releasing a new iPhone in the next six months. Misek, who spoke to Business Insider, stated that the phone would be known as the iPhone 5S. Like Intel, Apple commonly operates on a Tick-Tock strategy with one major revision (iPhone 4, iPhone 5) and one minor upgrade (iPhone 4S), so the iPhone 5S would make sense as being the next revision.

These minor upgrade cycles often include hardware changes, and that is reportedly true here as well. Misek claims that we’ll see an improved camera and NFC. An improved camera is definitely likely; it’s rare that Apple does not upgrade the camera in some way in a new iPhone. The iPhone 5S might be the first iPhone to come with a 12 or 13 megapixel sensor, but other smaller changes are also possible. NFC has always been a contentious point for Apple, but with the rise of many NFC iPhone 5 accessories they may have finally decided to include the functionality in the phone itself.

The analyst also suggested that for the first time, we’d see the iPhone come in colours other than black and white. With the rise of blue and white versions of the Galaxy S3 and the bold colours of Windows Phone 8X and Lumia 920 handsets, Apple may finally expand their chromatic range. They already produce iPod Touch models in a wide range of colours, so it’s definitely possible for them to do so.

According to Misek, there are also a number of iPhone 6 prototypes floating around, including a model with an Android-matching 4.8″ Retina+ IGZO display, an A7 quad-core processor and a new form factor with no home button. Of course, we’ve been hearing similarly outlandish rumours for some time now; without proof it seems a bit too much to believe – even for a phone that may be released more than a year from now.

What do you think – has this analyst got it right? I’m still wary, but on the whole the upgrades mentioned – camera, NFC, colours – are fairly safe bets and could well pan out. With Misek pinning the launch in June 2013, we won’t have too long to find out for sure.

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Top five accessories for the Google Nexus 10

In this article we’ll be looking at some of the best accessories on the market right now for the Google nexus 10 tablet. While we haven’t seen a massive flood of nexus 10 accessories yet, we’ve still got a good amount to chose from. Let’s get right into it!

5. MFX screen protector

Screen protectors are incredibly useful, particularly for well equipped tablets like the nexus 10. This mfx screen protector provides the basic functionality you’d expect, protecting the screen from scuffs and scratches, without breaking the bank. While normally I recommend going with the most well established brands, for screen protectors even the cheapest available can provide a significant advantage over no screen protector at all.

4. Cellular Line Crab Car Holder
This tablet sized car holder keeps your nexus 10 securely in place while you’re using it in the car. This means that whether you’re showing movies to your passengers in the back seat or satellite navigation for yourself, you’ll be able to safely and legally keep an eye on the tablet’s screen. The crab boasts expandable arms that will hold the nexus 10 with or without a case attached.

3. Avantree Dual USB Car Charger
Most car chargers on the market provide only 1 amp of power, which is enough for a smartphone but not a tablet like the nexus 10. This dual USB charger provides 2.1 amps in total, enough for full speed charging of the nexus 10 or two smartphones simultaneously.

2. SD Tablet Wear Stand and Type
This faux leather case isn’t the prettiest on the market, but it does provide the functionality you’ll want at a very competitive price. The case includes full protection of the tablet when it’s not in use, including complete coverage of the screen. It also includes an integrated stand, which props the tablet up for typing or media viewing.

1. Pad Pivot NST
This universal gallery stand is well suited for the nexus 10, and has proven invaluable for me over the past two weeks. The stand works in multiple ways, providing a slot for common orientations as well as a sticky ball joint mounting for less common ones. The pad pivot also works on your knee, with or without the detachable strap, which is ideal if you don’t have a surface in front of you.

So there we have it – five essential accessories for the Google nexus 10 tablet. I hope you find these suggestions useful – it’s a bit difficult to write an article like this as their aren’t as many options on the market as there are for iPad Mini accessories, but there’s definitely already enough to cover the most essentials and hopefully we’ll see more cool accessories in the future. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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